The art of handmade paper is quite ancient and is one of the most developed crafts of the Monpas of Tawang District, being an integral part of their local customs and culture. As the handmade paper-making industry existed many years back, its importance in the local economy is quite evident from the fact that Monpas used to sell and export it to the neighboring countries like Tibet, Bhutan and areas in the neighboring district of West Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh. During those days, the local artisans used to travel to Tsona and Lhasa in Tibet, Sakteng-Merak and Tashi Gang in Bhutan, Dirang, Bomdilla, Domkho-Morshing and Kalaktang in West Kameng District, to sell the handmade paper locally known as Mon-Shug. In fact, all the Buddhist religious texts, which came from Tibet, were written on this paper, as no handmade paper making industry existed in Tibet during that period.
The locally manufactured handmade paper (Mon-Shug) is made from a local tree called ‘Shug-Sheng” (Daphnie Paperacia), it is widely used in religious ceremonies throughout Buddhist belts and also for printing religious texts called “Pe-Cha“, flags called “Phann“, and as scrolls inside the prayer wheels (Mani) etc. The cost of Mon-Shug ranges from Rs. 50 to 60 per bundle depending upon the quality. A bundle of Mon-Shug consists of 10 sheets of paper and is locally known as “Chideb”.
Different qualities of handmade paper:
The handmade paper is basically classified into four categories based on their quality and size:
1.Gochema: – This, as the name suggests has the finest quality of paper.
2.Tsarsho: – This quality of paper is the thinnest and longest among its type.
3.KangyurParsho: – This quality of paper is finely polished on both its sides.
4.Kyosho: – This paper is of the lowest quality and is basically used in household works.
With proper refinement, the local handmade paper can also be used for making visiting cards, greeting cards, letter pads etc. as the paper is of high quality, can withstand rough climate for longer duration of time and is devoid of easy tampering. It is an Eco Friendly solution to the problem of energy and pollution. Apart from this, it is an ideal paper for painting with watercolor, landscapes and portraits. It also serves as an additional income for the farmers.One can purchase Hand paper from the Local market. For those interested in seeing the actual process of making local paper, they may visit Mukto village ( approx. 2 hours drive from the town) after consultation with the district tourism officer or Circle officer Mukto.